Henriette Reker, the Mayor of Cologne, is the first recipient of the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz award. The prize honours the legacy of late mayor of Gdansk Adamowicz, whose 2019 murder shocked Europe, highlighting political divisions in Poland.
Reker was chosen for her commitment to freedom, solidarity and equality. “Henriette Reker, the first woman to serve as Mayor of Cologne, was recognised for the courage and determination that she has shown over the past 20 years in promoting diversity, solidarity and integration as an integral part of Cologne’s identity,” reads a statement from the European Committee of the Regions; the body is responsible for the award together with Gdansk and the International Cities of Refuge Network.
Adamowicz, a champion of liberal policies, was stabbed on 14 January 2019 while appearing on stage at a fundraising event in Gdansk. His 27-year-old killer had just been released from prison and was critical of the mayor’s former party, Civic Platform.
In Adamowicz’s footsteps
Reker herself was seriously wounded in 2015 by an attacker who opposed Germany’s migration and integration policies, an act of violence that “has not dissuaded her from continuing to uphold her values in her public life,” the European Committee of the Regions said in explaining their decision.
“I am proud to be chosen for this special award. Everything it stands for: all those values are also true matters of the heart to me,” Reker said in accepting the prize. “Violence never was and never will be a solution. It will always be the first step in a wrong direction. That is why we have to stand up for peace, for open dialogue and unitedness,” she added.
Adamowicz was Poland’s longest serving mayor and a familiar face within the Eurocities network for his openness and commitment to public service.
He led Gdansk on a new path that transformed the city into an open and modern place. The mayor supported gay rights and welcomed asylum seekers, in contrast to the position of Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party.
“Mayor Paweł Adamowicz set a clear example of how politicians at all level must uphold our common European values,” said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of Central Macedonia. “His legacy is a point of reference for mayors and regional leaders committed to fighting against intolerance,” he added.
Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, the Mayor of Gdansk, echoed those words, saying the Paweł Adamowicz Award is designed “for those who draw inspiration from the legacy of Paweł Adamowicz and take it further. We hope that she [Reker] will cherish the universal values for which Paweł Adamowicz gave his life.”